Participation in Youth Programs as a Catalyst for Negotiation of Family Autonomy with Connection

  • Reed W. Larson
  • Nickki Pearce
  • Patrick J. SullivanEmail author
  • Robin L. Jarrett
Original Paper


Current research and theory suggest that the healthy path of autonomy development involves gradual negotiation of adolescents’ independence within a context of continued family connection. This theory-generating study examined the role that adolescents’ participation in youth programs plays in these adolescent-parent negotiations. Qualitative data from high-school-aged youth in 12 programs and from a sub-sample of parents were analyzed employing methods of grounded theory. These analyses suggest that program participation provides a pathway of opportunities for youth to exercise individual choice and develop qualities of self-reliance with parental approval. In turn, parents’ observation of self-reliance in the program and youth's demonstration of these qualities in family interactions can lead to changes in adolescent-parent relationships that provide youth greater family autonomy with connection.


Autonomy Youth Development Program Parent-Youth Relationship Positive Development 



This research was funded with generous support from the William T. Grant Foundation. We also thank the youth, leaders, and parents who participated in the research and thank Kate Walker, Jane Brown, Vikki Rompala, David Hansen, Natasha Watkins, Dustin Wood, Chidori Harris, and other TYDE staff members for their contributions to the work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reed W. Larson
    • 1
  • Nickki Pearce
    • 2
  • Patrick J. Sullivan
    • 3
    Email author
  • Robin L. Jarrett
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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